Advertisement
  1. Stage

Jeremy Denk dazzles; Florida Orchestra adapts to late program change

Pianist Jeremy Denk performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 with the Florida Orchestra.
Published Oct. 22, 2016

TAMPA

One of the world's foremost pianists performed brilliantly Friday with the Florida Orchestra. Jeremy Denk, a winner of the Avery Fisher Prize and Musical America's instrumentalist of the year award, showed a surprisingly sparse audience at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts what a world-class pianist sounds like.

It wasn't the concert the orchestra thought it would be playing a week earlier. Denk's representative contacted the orchestra late Oct. 14 to scratch his planned piece, Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, citing a busier-than-expected performance schedule that left Denk short on adequate preparation time for the Ravel, a new work for him. He will play that piece at the Kennedy Center in January.

The substituted work, Piano Concerto No. 20, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is one of the composer's most influential concertos, and Denk is renowned for playing Mozart. Concerto No. 20 represents a turning point to a deeper, more emotionally complex dimension and is regarded as an influence on Ludwig van Beethoven. It opens with a forceful allegro, the piano entering about two minutes in with a contrasting, lilting melody. That kind of counterbalance, so critical to the concerto form, defines this one as piano and orchestra battle and make uneasy peace, finishing each other's sentences and clashing again.

Denk handled all of these delicacies superbly, with dexterity and interpretation, a vessel of great music so clear as to become almost invisible. For its part, the orchestra handled its half of the interplay professionally. A few of the entrances seemed tentative, particularly in the second movement.

They rallied under the baton of guest conductor Karina Canellakis, finishing with precision and verve. Whether the general impression of musicians playing scores, rather than a body making one sound, had anything to do with having their individual rehearsal time cut short is impossible to say.

The orchestra otherwise shone in the three tone-poems that completed the program, which was originally designed as a succession of stories. (Piano Concerto for the Left Hand was commissioned by a World War I veteran who had lost his right arm in the war.) The concert opened with Igor Stravinsky's The Song of the Nightingale, part of his opera, The Nightingale. Notes of sadness, contemplation and grace permeated this piece, which is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fable about a bird singing before the Chinese emperor. Soloists delighted, with a piercing flute, a harp and a dancing violin.

The program after intermission was just as good, starting with The Wood Dove, by Antonin Dvorak. Here the orchestra returned to form in a musical narration of a folk tale. Woodwinds and horns replied to the strings, telling a story about a woman's descent into madness after poisoning her husband. A flawless contribution by the strings led to a mournful finishing touch, with the horns playing a role. Canellakis let The Wood Dove sing its last note, then held the silence as an exquisite coda.

The concluding tone poem was Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, by Richard Strauss. The composer cleverly changed the story of the medieval German trickster by having him hanged instead of dying in bed of plague, as some believed. That development allows for a raucous trombones and percussive blasts toward the peak of the 15-minute piece, leading to a furious finish.

The bottom line for the concert show: a net plus. On the minus side is Denk's program change at the heart of the event, and a corresponding slight dip in the orchestra's performance.

On the plus side stands the virtuosity of the pianist himself and the resilience of the orchestra and its guest conductor. They survived a crisis to which they should never have been subjected.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Michael Francis leads a community chorus during one of the Florida Orchestra's Sing Out Tampa Bay sing-alongs. MICHAEL FRANCIS  |  Florida Orchestra
    The music director is entering his fifth year with the orchestra, which has a Beethoven-heavy season opening Sept. 27 in Tampa.
  2. Spymonkey's "Hysteria!" will run at the Straz Center's Jaeb Theater from Sept. 19-Nov. 3. Courtesy of Jane Hobson
    Spymonkey’s ‘Hysteria,’ Billy Cobham and ‘Crossing the Bay’ accompany dance experiences and a banned book cabaret.
  3. Yesterday• Arts & Entertainment
    Patrons hit the dance floor at Tampa venue Skipper's Smokehouse in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times (2015)
    A 12-hour party in the Skipperdome, stargazing and a family-friendly Williams Park festival provide free and cheap entertainment.
  4. A Zombie Bride is one of the characters found in one of Busch Gardens' open-air scare zones at Howl-O-Scream, which opens for its 20th year on Friday.
    Free Museum Day is coming, Howl-O-Scream opens at Busch Gardens, Billy Ray Cyrus plays for the Bucs Beach Bash and Tho Who will be at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jordan Foote (Norm) and Jonelle M. Meyer (Corky) in Jobsite's production of Steve Martin's "Meteor Shower." Courtesy of Pritchard Photography
    Steve Martin’s voice is ingrained in the absurdist comedy.
  6. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, bringing two December shows to Tampa's Amalie Arena, performs in Birmingham, Ala., in 2017. Courtesy of Anna Jones
    Seats at Stomp, Little Big Town and A Nightmare on Franklin Street are also up for grabs.
  7. Jim Jefferies in an episode of Comedy Central's "The Jim Jefferies Show." ALI GOLDSTEIN  |  Comedy Central
    Raunchy moms, YouTubers and flamenco dancers also hit local theaters. Plus, Tampa Rep opens a Pulitzer-winning drama.
  8. From left: Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter, Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors and Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." 20th Century Fox
    The popular ‘Last Podcast on the Left’ and Barry Bostwick from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ are new to A Nightmare on Franklin Street.
  9. The children just tricked (conned) their father into letting them purchase a dog, much to his displeasure, in the Live Oak Theatre presentation of 'Cheaper By the Dozen,' which opens Sept. 13 at the Brooksville theater. Standing, left to right: Billie (Amber Marino), Martha (Quincee Willis) and Dad (Joe Santerelli). Sitting, left to right: Dan (Jase Ivie), Fredericka (Hailey Radatz), “The dog,” (Ozzie), Jackie (Cam Kennedy) and Lilly (Emily Mosher). Kris Mitten
  10. Disney's Aladdin comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts as part of the 2019-2020 Broadway series. Courtesy of Deen van Meer.
    From augmented reality at the Dalí to a boatload of Beethoven at the Florida Orchestra, it’s shaping up as another busy season in the arts.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement